“Cu-map”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This month we travel to the Americas and our first stop is Cuba. As an American I have very prejudice views of Cuba due to the history of Cuba with the United States. It has been fun exploring this mysterious country with my daughter and learning more about it. Cuba is officially the Republic of Cuba. Cuba is an island country in the Caribbean. It consists of the main island and many small islands surrounding it. The capital city is Havana. Cuba is one of the places Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492 and claimed it for Spain. At the time there were several native tribes living there. Cuba remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish-American War in 1898. After the war Cuba was briefly ruled by the United States and then gained nominal independence in 1902. In 1952 Cuba came under the dictatorship of former president Fulgencio Batista. Batista was ousted in 1959 and the government was then under Fidel Castro. Since 1965 Cuba has been run as a single party state by the Communist Party. Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, is the current president.

Flag of Cuba

Source: (Drawn by User:Madden) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. Its inhabitants come from the indigenous Taino and Ciboney tribes as well as the Spanish and the African slaves the Spanish brought to Cuba. It had a close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and it is close to the United States. Both of these also influence the culture and customs of Cuba.

Street life in Havana, Cuba

Street Live in Havana By Eggenbergurbock23 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Cuba adheres largely to the socialist principles of state controlled planned economy. This means the government owns and runs most businesses and means of production. The government controls the largest labor force. Private sectors that want to hire Cuban labor force must first pay the Cuban government who will in turn pay the employee in Cuban pesos. In July 2013 the average monthly salary was 466 Cuban pesos which is equivalent to about 19 American dollars. Every Cuban household has a ration book which entitles it to monthly supply of food and other staples. Cuba’s natural resources are sugar, tobacco, fish, citrus fruits and coffee.

Tobacco field cuba2

Tobacco Field in Cuba By Henryk Kotowski (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Travel to and from Cuba has been restricted for decades, but is now being a little more liberal. Previously for Cubans to travel abroad they had to get an expensive government permit and letter of invitation. Now they only need a passport and a national ID card and are allowed to take young children with them. However a passport costs five months salary. Tourism was initially restricted to enclave resorts. It was illegal for contact between foreign visitors and ordinary Cubans at one point. With the changes being made tourism in Cuba has greatly increased. The growth is expected to continue.

La Habana 2004 018

By Veronidae (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

 The culture of Cuba is diverse with the influences from Spain and Africa. Roman Catholic is the largest religious group due to the Spanish colonization. However today less than 50% identify as Roman Catholic. Music is rich and diverse. The central form of music is the Son which is the basis of many other forms like salsa, rumba, mambo and cha-cha-cha. The tres was invented in Cuba. The tres is a guitar-like chordophone. The tres cubano has six strings and the tres puerto rico has nine. Other traditional instruments include the maracas, güiro, marimba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan. Some famous Cuban-American musicians include Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz.


Tres Cubano By Claireislovely (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 To learn more about Cuban music we went to the library and found the following CDs with Cuban songs and books about Cuban musicians.

cuban music Collage Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba. They also like football, basketball, volleyball and amateur boxing. They tend to favor the popular North American sports due to the past relationship with the United States. Cuban literature often is themed around independence and freedom. Below are some cultural biographies and novels I found at our local library.

Cuban biographies and novels CollageThe cuisine in Cuba is a mixture of Spanish and Caribbean. The food rationing over the last four decades in Cuba has limited the availability of traditional foods. Traditionally the food is served all together instead of in courses. Black beans and rice and plantains are staples in Cuba. Garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves are the dominant spices. An example of a typical meal is plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits.


Typical Cuban dinner consisting of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, white rice, plantains and fried yucca. By Marc Averette [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some resources for recipes and crafts we found the following books at our library.

Cuban food and craft books CollageTo get a taste of Cuban life and culture we have also been enjoying reading stories from Cuba. Below is what we found at our library.

Cuban stories and picture books CollageWe also read some simple non-fiction books about Cuba. Here are ones we found at the library. This is a mixed collection of ones that are good for younger and older children.

Cuban resource books CollageFor older children you will also want to go into the history of Cuba more and the revolutions as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The following are books that will help with these topics. We did not look at them since my daughter is only five.

Cuban history books novels CollageThis post was created by the sources of the books pictures above and Wikipedia.

Now it is time to explore Cuba with different recipes. Join us on our blog hop to see all the wonderful Cuban recipes, crafts and more shared and feel free to share your own.  We also have the wonderful Cuban placemat and passport pages  (and of course our passport cover) coming soon to download for free to help teach your children about Cuba.

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One response »

  1. […] “Around the World in 12 Dishes,” and this time we are off to Cuba!  (Go here for an overview and wonderful resource list about Cuba).  We found some wonderful picture books and so decided to pick a recipe to go with one […]

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